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Venus And Jupiter Appear To Almost Touch In The Night Sky This Weekend

This month, early risers have been treated to an astronomical treat, as Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn have aligned across the sky.

The highlight of their dance will occur this weekend when the two brightest planets will pass so close to one another in the sky that an untrained eye may believe they are one object.

Venus and Jupiter are the second and third brightest objects in the sky, behind the Sun and Moon – or were, until the International Space Station (ISS) was built – and their presence close together is usually rather spectacular. This year, though, they will seem unusually near, separated by just 0.2 degrees, and seeing them requires no special equipment; simply look up.

“They will appear to be so close that they’ll look like one object, or appear as if they are kissing. Similar to what Jupiter and Saturn did at the end of 2020,” said Dr Brad Tucker of the Australian National University. Though you can see this celestial kissing with the naked eye, “If you have a telescope, a pair of binoculars or a decent camera, then you’ll get an even better view.”

Additionally, Mars and Saturn will be there to provide additional motivation to get out of bed and enjoy this celestial spectacle. “Although Venus and Jupiter get close to one another every few years, this time there is also Mars and Saturn in the mix which is pretty rare, watching from afar like the creepy neighbour next door,” Tucker added.

On April 30, the closest conjunction will occur between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. UTC. The pair will be below the horizon for the majority of the world at that time, but visible over eastern Asia and Australia on Sunday morning. However, readers in the United States and Europe need not fret, since this is not one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it celestial phenomena. When they rise a few hours later, they will still be smaller than the breadth of the full Moon aside from the UK. On Saturday, parts of South America will see a partial solar eclipse.

Alternatively, you may enjoy the event through your computer via the Virtual Telescope’s live feed.

The couple will be most visible one to two hours before dawn, whatever that time is in your local time zone. They will be low in the sky, which means that a clear view east is critical. Mars, approximately 15 degrees above them, should be easy to identify, as should Saturn, about the same distance higher.

Jupiter’s brightness remains very consistent throughout time, owing in large part to its size. Venus undergoes far greater fluctuations since its distance from the Earth fluctuates by a factor of three. Although Venus is not at its maximum brightness at the moment, at -4.1 magnitudes, it is somewhat brighter than typical, adding to the spectacle.

Although they never approach each other closer than 640 million kilometers away in reality, Venus and Jupiter approach each other in the sky up to three times a year from our viewpoint. However, many of these conjunctions occur while the Sun is also aligned, making the event difficult to detect, if not impossible. Furthermore, since the planets’ orbits are not perfectly circular, Jupiter sometimes passes many degrees north or south of Venus – a difference of less than a degree, let alone 14 arcminutes, is very unusual.

Venus at its brightest may be so stunning that many people refuse to believe it is real, and tight conjunctions of the two can generate UFO tales, or even a whole religion, according to some sources.